AARP Massachusetts brings you news about scams involving IRS debt collection, the “Can You Hear Me?” scam, ongoing tech support scams, those at risk for investment fraud, and scammers preying on those receiving new Medicare cards. Read more and take heed!

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IRS Announces Use of Private Debt Collectors

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is now working with private debt collection agencies to recover unpaid tax debts. Scammers could attempt to capitalize on potential confusion created by this new development. Here’s what you need to know.

How it Works:

  • If you have a long overdue federal tax account, IRS will mail you a letter informing you that it is turning over your account to a private debt collection agency. The letter will provide the name of the company and contact information.
  • The private debt collector will then send you a letter confirming the account transfer before contacting you by phone.
  • The debt collector will be able to discuss payment options with you, but the only way you can pay your tax debt is electronically or by check, payable to the US Treasury.

What You Should Know:

The IRS authorized only four private debt collection agencies to collect tax debt, and only one of them will contact you if you owe federal taxes. The agencies are CBE Group of Cedar Falls, IA; Conserve of Fairport, NY; Performant of Livermore, CA; and Pioneer of Horseheads, NY.

What You Should Do:

  • Remain vigilant to the IRS imposter scam: if you do not have federal tax debt, then you will not get a call from IRS or a private debt collector demanding payment.
  • If you are unsure if you owe federal taxes, look up your account at www.irs.gov/balancedue.

Is the “Say Yes” Scam Real?

Our Fraud Watch Network Help Line has been fielding lots of calls about the “Say Yes” scam. News reports have warned that a fraudster will call and ask a question to get the victim to say yes. The scammer records that affirmation to use it to authorize unwanted charges to a phone bill, utility bill, or even a stolen credit card.

While many people report that they are getting calls like these followed by a hang up, we have yet to encounter any victims. If you got a call like this and answered yes, don’t panic. Here are some tips about dealing with this possible scam.

What You Should Know:

  • The caller will ask a question that will elicit a “Yes” response, such as “Can you hear me?” or “Are you the homeowner?” Once you say “Yes,” the scammer will hang up.
  • Reportedly, the scammer can use this recorded affirmation to “prove” you approved a charge to a bill or credit card.

What You Should Do:

  • Avoid answering calls from unfamiliar numbers.
  • Always closely review your bills and credit card statement for unauthorized charges.
  • If you discover an unauthorized charge, call the biller immediately to dispute it.

Are You at Risk for Investment Fraud?

Investment fraud schemes cost Americans tens of billions of dollars a year. AARP has identified eight risk factors that predict who is most likely to be defrauded.

What You Should Know:

While no one factor causes someone to be scammed, our research found that these eight factors raise one’s risk of being defrauded:

  1. Male gender
  2. High annual trading frequency (five or more a year)
  3. Frequent solicitations by phone, email, and regular mail
  4. Frequent remote investing in response to TV, email, or phone calls
  5. A mindset that wealth is an important measure of success in life
  6. A mindset that unregulated investments are more profitable
  7. A world view that is described as conservative
  8. Older age

What you should do to avoid investment fraud:

  • Only invest with registered advisors and investments
  • Put yourself on the Do Not Call registry (www.donotcall.gov)
  • Get a telephone call blocking system to screen out potential scammers
  • Limit the amount of personal information you give to sales people until you verify their credentials
  • Don’t make an investment decision based on a TV ad, a phone call or an email
  • Don’t make any investment decisions under stress
  • Take AARP’s Investment Fraud Vulnerability Quiz to find out if you are at risk

Don’t Fall Victim to Tech Support Scams

Tech support scams have lurked online for years. They often come in the guise of a pop-up message on the target’s computer screen, claiming viruses are attacking the device, along with a phone number to call for assistance. The operator then convinces the target to buy hundreds of dollars of tech support services he doesn’t need.

In a more recent twist, scammers cold call targets and claim to be from a major computer company, indicating that a virus or malware has infected the target’s computer.

How it Works:

  • The caller convinces the target that his computer is infected and asks for remote access to the device to fix the problem.
  • The scammer’s goal is to gain remote access to your device, and once in, claims to find multiple viruses or malware that he can fix for a fee.
  • The scammer will ask for a form of payment, usually a credit card or wire transfer.

What You Should Know:

The Federal Trade Commission reports that thousands of people have lost hundreds of dollars to this scam. Last fall, the FTC shut down a business operating as Global Connect for running this scam, but scammers are again using this company name to target victims.

What You Should Do:

  • If you get a tech support call out of the blue, hang up.
  • Never give control of your computer to someone who calls you.
  • Report scams like this to www.ftc.gov/complaint and let others know about it on our scam-tracking map.

Medicare Card Changes Means Opportunities for Scams

Congress passed a law in 2015 that requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to remove Social Security numbers from all Medicare cards, which they will start doing in April 2018. New beneficiaries will get the modernized cards first, and then new cards will be issued to existing beneficiaries. This is an important change to help prevent fraud and protect people’s identity, but with any new change, scammers are taking advantage of potential confusion.

What You Should Know:

  • Medicare beneficiaries are getting calls claiming to be from Medicare asking for payment to receive their new Medicare card, or asking them to verify their Medicare number.
  • Medicare will NEVER call to verify your number because they already have it.
  • There is no cost to get your new card.

What You Should Do:

  • If you get a call like this, hang up immediately and report it to Senior Medicare Patrol. Find the number to call for your state at www.smpresource.org.
  • Warn others on the Fraud Watch Network Scam-tracking map.

 

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